Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Humanity and the humanities

David Brooks on the continuing importance of the humanities: here.

I do not always agree with Brooks, but I enjoy reading and hearing his analysis, and on this subject, I believe he is spot on. (I think I might have named that unnameable insight that he so eloquently describes something other than "The Big Shaggy" -- but that said, I'm not sure I would replace it with. Once one moves beyond images of old carpeting, it does conjure the muddled complexity he is trying to evoke.)

Human society defies easy systematization. We can make best guesses and try to establish some frameworks for civilized life, but if we are to make anything approaching a success of it here on Earth, we must be comfortable with complexity, and we must know the past that brought us to our present. I'm glad someone nationally syndicated took his column inches to defend these important principles.


Gregorio said...

So I stole your post, but credited you. :)

Is history considered humanities or social sciences?

Laura Gifford said...

Thanks for the link!

As far as how history is defined, it tends to depend upon the university. Often it is categorized as a social science because of the ties between history and disciplines like poli sci. Those linkages are valuable, but to the extent that history focuses more on narrative than on quantitative analysis (and often addresses subjects like social conditions, intellectual currents and other things that might not be readily quantifiable in the first place), I would argue it aligns fairly closely with the concept of the humanities. That said, there is some wonderful quantitative work going on in history, and quantitative underpinnings are very important. Perhaps we're hybrids. Interdisciplinary is the big thing, so I guess we're just trendy. :)

Gregorio said...

To be honest, trendy is a label I would not have applied to you, but if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck. :)

Insightful analysis. Thanks Laura!